6/11/10

What does the Anglo-French Treaty bode for European defense

  
Σάββατο, 06 Νοεμβρίου 2010 12:19
 
Anglo French Nuclear Treaty
The defense treaty signed this month by the French president and the British prime minister is undoubtedly a welcome development. A closer cooperation in the nuclear field of the only two nuclear EU powers and the creation of a combined joint expeditionary force and of an integrated carrier strike group by Europe’s preeminent militaries can only be applauded. However, this follow up to the Blair-Chirac Saint-Malo Declaration of December 1998 – which, it should be remembered, urged that the European Union be given a “capacity for autonomous action backed up by credible military forces” – is not without its downsides.
In the first place, it is tied in with a reduction of the two countries’ defense budgets. In fact, facilitating, and perhaps justifying, these cuts may have been the dominant motive of both contracting parties; and especially of the British, who in effect – following as to this the example of most of the other allies – are reneging on their NATO commitment to devote at least two per cent of their national income to defense. This is certainly not the way towards a stronger military posture, national or collective.
But this agreement has also taken on a narrowly national hue, far removed from earlier attempts to forge a truly European military force – and even from the spirit of Saint-Malo. It is squarely predicated on exclusive national control over the two militaries; it makes only passing reference to the European Union – which is lumped together with NATO, the United States, the United Nations, and “others”; and, characteristically, it leaves out the third major European power that is Germany – indeed, the one with the largest population and economy. While as significant, perhaps, is the indifference, probably the relief even, with which this omission was noted by Berlin; since it reveals troubling attitudes towards defense widespread among Germans – and not only among Germans.
For the rest, this attempt at closer defense cooperation between two former arch-rivals is, in a wider sense, indicative of the changed status of European states in the world pecking order. None of these states – not Britain, not France, nor Germany for that matter – is any longer in a position to assume on its own a truly leading role on the international stage. The once great powers of Europe are simply too small for such a task.
Above all, they are too weak militarily – with military might remaining the master-key to world influence. It is no coincidence that Europeans are playing third base – when they are not altogether absent – in the management of all major international crises, from the Middle East to the Korean peninsula. They lack the hard power that would make their voice effectively heard. And they can only offset this critical disadvantage by acting together – provided that they pool their strengths, not their weakness; and that the bigger EU members all participate in this cooperative effort. Unfortunately, neither of these prerequisites is satisfied at this point in time.

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